Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hiatus / Retired Blog

This blog is on hiatus - possibly retired permanently. As always, keep up with my composing and educating activities at, and keep in contact with me there as well. Until next time (possibly).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Guest Artist Ben Redwine at UT Tyler

I'm rather late on announcing this, but wanted to mention clarinetist Ben Redwine's visit to the campus of University of Texas at Tyler earlier this month. In addition to a jazz improv clinic, woodwinds master class, and general mingling with students and faculty, he performed a thoroughly-enjoyable guest artist recital. Among other fine selections, he played two new compositions of mine written specifically for him.

Jazz Chowder for clarinet and piano is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the local alcohol laws here in Smith County. Can you believe there are numerous counties in the U.S. where alcohol sales - or in our case, only sales for off-premise-consumption - are illegal?! That issue is up for election this November. More word on that later!

Jazz Etude, a duet for two clarinets, is a player's introduction to the octatonic scale in a jazz context. Ben was joined in performance by my fellow UT Tyler faculty member Michael Thrasher, Director of the School of Performing Arts. Both recordings came out great and should be posted up on the website soon along with scores/previews.

Other upcoming topics of interest, which may or may not turn into blog posts, include:
* The CMS National Conference in San Diego (in which I reflect on having a piece performed, sitting on a panel, and clink pint glasses with fellow music-minded academics)
* Copyright and its alternatives as they impact music creators and educators (in which I discuss my CMS panel topic, and why art should be free for everyone everywhere everytime, except when it shouldn't)
* Art History and Music (in which I get all excited and stressed over an upcoming team-taught course)
* Opera (in which I decide whether I'm writing another one, and if I have/need a topic)
* Self-Publishing as a composer (in which I discuss "self-proprietorship", and other fancy money words)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Finalist in National Opera Assc. Competition

I received word yesterday that I am a finalist in the National Opera Association's biennial Chamber Opera Competition (2012-2014). My one-act opera Oblivion, along with two other composers' works, will be excerpted at NOA's Annual Convention in Portland next January. The winner will be produced in its entirety at the 2014 Convention.

Part of my doctoral dissertation, Oblivion was my treat to myself. It contains a lot of peculiarities that my creative and composerly self indulged in, but that may not appear particularly programming-friendly. The unfamiliar story, based on a two-page H.P. Lovecraft story with essentially no plot, interlaced with half a dozen poems by other authors, is not the stuff of your typical libretto. And the pit itself is quite small and unconventional: flute, guitar, cello, and three Himalayan singing bowls. Despite or perhaps because of these quirks, the work was selected. This is due in large part, I'm sure, to the excellent recording I got out of the premiere at the 2010 Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, DC.

Many thanks to director Sasha Br├Ątt, stage manager Alison Goldberg, singer/actors Rachel Barham, Melissa Kornacki, Christine Laird (Gahagan), James Rogers, and Alexander Wolniak, instrumentalists Jessica Bateman, Jesse Crites, and Daniel Shomper, and everyone else who helped make the premiere possible!

More announcements coming soon about upcoming performances for the 2012-2013 season.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

More CMS National News

And now even more reason to check out the CMS National Conference in San Diego this November: I will also be helping putting together a panel discussion on issues copyright for musicians and educators. Should be informative and a lot of fun!

Five weeks remain in the semester. Lots of fun projects upcoming in the meantime!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

CMS National Conference - Nov. 2012 - San Diego

I was excited to learn last night that one of my compositions has been selected for performance at the College Music Society National Conference, Nov.13 in San Diego! CMS has gradually grown into my main source of non-local artistic exchange, professional development, and intellectual stimulation. I guess it's like the academic music nerd world's Comic-Con. I'm excited to be attending for my third year in a row - a tradition I plan to continue for a long time.

My selected work is Dirge for the New Sunrise (Mvt. VI: But I Saw the Little Ant-Men), for soprano, flute, viola, guitar, and percussion. It's a weird little ensemble, but one whose sound is a lot of fun to work with. This piece premiered as part of my dissertation lecture recital last May, and I'm looking forward to hearing what the new music specialists of soundSCAPE will do with it!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Zen Bowling the Opera - Where I Draw the Line on Copyright

Just how long are copyright terms nowadays?...

Let's say (foolishly) that I write my life's operatic masterpiece next year (2013), at the age of 30, and it becomes world-famous. [By the way, it's an epic comedy-drama about bowling, Buddhist meditation, and the meaning of life, tentatively titled Zen Bowling.]

So now everyone and their moms want to produce Zen Bowling. I rake in the dough (hahaha, profitable opera, good joke...), and live comfortably on that income until my estimated death at age 85, in 2068.

I agree that people shouldn't be able to stage Zen Bowling for free, create a commercial recording, develop a movie version, arrange the work for wind ensemble, perform selections on public recitals, write a sequel, create a fan-fiction graphic novel, sell Zen Bowling-themed T-shirts, etc., etc., for free, and thereby cash in on my success and hard work. It would be unfair to allow that sort of theft. Instead, people should be encouraged to do those things, with my permission, and required to share some of their profits with me.

But at some point in the future, people absolutely should be able to do those things for free. At some point, the "incentive to create" narrative runs out of steam. When should that be? 100 years ago, the law would have offered me protection of 28 years from creation, with another 28 years if I renew my claim. If we followed those rules, my fictional opera would become publicly available in 2040, when I'm 57, or, if I renew my copyright, in 2068, when I'm 85.

That seems reasonable to me, that a work I created at age 30 can be protected until I'm 85. If I were making the rules today, that's where I'd draw the line. 28+28 years is plenty. What about you? How many years do you require to protect the artistic integrity (read: financial potential) of your art? If you're living by today's rules, here's how long:

Copyright terms have been extended many times since the early 1900's - so much so, that, assuming I create this blockbuster opera next year (2013), and die when I'm 85 (2068), it will be protected from unauthorized use or re-use until the year 2138.

That's right, the day someone can start producing Zen Bowling or re-purposing its material without paying me (or my heirs/estate) for the privilege, is Jan. 1, 2138. That's 70 years after my death, 125 years after its creation, and 155 years after my birth. People my (fictional) great-great-great-grandchildren's age will be the first generation allowed to make a drawing of one of my now-famous characters and sell it without giving my (still fictional) great-great-great-grandchildren some of the profits.

That is ridiculous, unacceptable, indefensible, and more unbelievable than a profitable opera called Zen Bowling.

* Note: I am not a lawyer. But I am upset. This rant does not constitute legal advice. I may have forgotten to carry a "1". Do your own homework!

Monday, November 7, 2011


Somewhere between burrito number one and beer number two, I realized that, if you're in a certain mood, everything becomes a metaphor.

I am a habitual over-stuffer of burritos. I load my tortilla with every ingredient I enjoy (all of them), in exactly the right proportions. I always go back and add more cheese, just to even things out. This happens every time, and I am aware of it. Yet it still happens. (If you came here to read about music, hang tight.)

Just like my burritos, my individual artistic pursuits are often grande in conception but unwieldy, disasterous, even comical in execution. I once co-wrote a 40-minute musical in three weeks because it seemed very important and vaguely possible. (It's no longer on my CV.) I once composed a short piano work mere minutes before my undergraduate senior composition recital began, because I had promised it to myself. (Yes, I performed it.) I once began making snow angels as a finals week stress-reliever, and ended up wasting two hours etching the first four bars of "Twinkle, Tinkle" into the snow... in F Minor. (The staff was five feet tall.) And I once took on a major project that so consumed my life that, for months at a time, I rarely ate dinner at a table, saw friends outside of class, or slept six straight hours next to my wife.

My point is, I get these crazy ideas, and then, whether by desire or lack of clarity or sheer blind will, I convince myself that they are possible. And usually they are. But that isn't the point either. The point is, looking back on the great and embarassing and mediocre art I've created over the past nine years, I can't find ten minutes worth of music I've written that is more important to me than ten minutes with my family, my wife, or my friends. The same goes for school, career, and all those things with which I'm "supposed" to fill my days to become happy and successful.

Tonight's post was supposed to be about the (qualified, non-statistical) success of my CC21 project that ended last month. It was supposed to be about me moving halfway across the country, and working 60-hour weeks for all of September, and being so thankful for the opportunity to do so because this is it, this is what I've been working toward for ten years. But instead it's about stepping back from all of that, as positive as some of it is, and reminding myself, through some stupid metaphors, what really makes me happy. It's about acknowledging and choosing.

Tonight I had a great solution to my bloated burrito problem. I wrapped my strained tortilla... in another tortilla. This kept the ingredients securely inside, perhaps for the first time in my burrito-assembling career. The result was chewy, and carb-tastic in all the wrong ways. It was a step in the right direction, but I know the real solution will require some serious austerity measures. So I'll try again tomorrow. Next time I will keep my portions manageable. Next time I will pay attention to what is in front of me. And next time I will practice actually being there, eating dinner, at dinner time.

As the night inched closer, I reached again for my drink. I stared blankly at the wall while vaguely disappointing thoughts of unmet deadlines and personal responsibilities swirled in my brain. With the bottle an inch from my lips, I realized this wasn't the Shiner Blonde I was expecting. This was the Frank's Red Hot I'd been applying liberally and mindlessly to my burrito supremo. I caught myself, laughed, and made the needed beverage substitution.

If you didn't catch it, there's your second metaphor of the story: If you don't pay attention to what you've put on the table in front of you, you might get burned, and make an awful fool of yourself in the process.

I don't have a good ending for this story. But it's not over yet.